Watching Washington, February 2019: Sizzle sells product. No wonder the sizzle of ever-lower operating ratios is leading to remarkably higher railroad share prices. But as operating ratios—operating expenses as a percentage of operating revenue—flirt with a sub-60%, the meaning for the longer term is unclear.
Author: Frank N. Wilner
In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued Jan. 31, the Republican majority on the National Mediation Board seeks to create a “straightforward election process” to decertify union representation on airlines and railroads whose labor relations are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA).
If you’re passionate about on-time performance of Amtrak passenger trains traversing freight railroad tracks, you’d best pray for the health of RBG—the increasingly frail 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Restoration of the 50% investment tax credit for short line railroads—commonly known as 45-G for its designated section in the Internal Revenue Code—again appears a reality in Congress after that “wall thing” debate interfered with the tax credit’s passage just prior to final adjournment of the 115th Congress.
Watching Washington, January 2019: Prominently on Harry Truman’s Oval Office desk was a sign, “The buck stops here.” Newly confirmed members of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) may wish to reflect on that acknowledgment of accountability as they wade through a troubling backlog of unfinished rulemakings—some disregarded for years.
Five nominations for rail transportation federal leadership posts were announced Jan. 16 by President Trump. All are nominees from the previous session of Congress, and were cleared by respective Senate oversight committees for confirmation on the Senate floor—but none advanced for a floor vote prior to the Senate adjourning.
UPDATE: “Knock, knock.” Seriously, if you’re awaiting a “Who’s there?” response from many railroad-important federal agencies, you ain’t gonna get one, because, quite literally, there’s nobody there.
Some in the federal work force may say, “Take this job and shove it,” but not so at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), where job satisfaction for 2018 was the highest among the Department of Transportation’s nine modal administrations.
In the people’s company town of Washington, D.C., the most popular refrain during lame duck sessions of Congress—the fewer than 60 days between congressional elections and adjournment—is the catchphrase from Mariah Carey’s iconic tune, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
Watching Washington, December 2018 Railway Age: New leadership arrives at railroad-focused congressional committees in January, and unless Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Ann Begeman ingests breakfast Wheaties and gains courage to produce decisions, Congress may prescribe more than a potent laxative.